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Thought for the Day: Ma'aseh Avos Siman l'Banim

It not often that a simple Jew like myself knows the m'chaber of a sefer.  Rarer still that I get the opportunity to quote from his sefer.  The following story (in outline form; come to vasikin to discuss the details with the Ohr HaYom himself -- after davening, of course) is brought in the Ohr HaYom b'shem R' Reisman b'shem R' Kanievsky:
A large sum of cash in an unmarked envelope was found and it was paskened that the finder could keep the money.  The finder, who is a hatzala volunteer, was called to help a man having an apparent heart attack.  While helping, it came out that the heart attack was really an anxiety attack because of losing a huge sum of cash in an unmarked envelope; he had just come back from America collecting to pay for his daughter's chasuna.  The sum mentioned was exactly what the hatzala volunteer had found, so he returned the money and all was well.
So far so good, but then R' Kanievsky paskened that the man still owed ma'aser on the original find because he really had owned the money. It is true that that he acted beyond the letter of the law in returning the lost money, but that didn't change his ma'aser obligation. R' Kanievsky's proof? From Avraham Avinu who gave back all the booty to melech S'dom, but still paid ma'aer on said booty.
R' Reisman had a difficulty in understanding the p'sak because in Avraham Avinu's case the booty really was his; fair and square. In our case, however, while the money did belong to the finder, it was only because the halacha rules that way when the owner cannot be determined by signs or seals on the money itself.
 While I normally would not weigh in to a discussion among such great people, in this case I wish to to no more than offer a dimension of understanding to R' Kanievsky's p'sak.  In the sefer Emes l'Yaakov (R' Yaakov Kamenetsky on chumash) asks why Avraham Avinu gave back the people to melech S'dom.  He answers that Avraham Avinu held that since the war was won only by miraculous help from heaven.  Therefore, our illustrious ancestor reasoned, the booty was not his -- even al pi din.  That being the case, the example from Avraham Avinu is a perfect match to our case.

Of course an understanding of the true nature of the Avos is way beyond us.  Even to really understand the depth of thought of R' Kanievsky and R' Reisman.  But we can take their lessons and words and apply them to our daily lives.  That's a real living Torah.


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